Why small businesses should attack with their strengths

Jim Blasingame

During the American Revolutionary War, John Paul Jones was one of the most colorful and effective Americans to ever stick his finger in the eye of King George.

Penetrating enemy waters off the northeast coast of England aboard the ramshackle Le Bonhomme Richard, Jones and his crew made the acquaintance of the British warship Serapis, which was escorting a convoy of merchant ships.

In the ensuing battle, out-shipped and out-gunned, the Richard was so badly damaged that J.P.J.’s chivalrous opponent, Captain Richard Pearson, offered to accept surrender from the sinking and apparently defeated revolutionary.

Think of it. Here’s an invader, 3,000 miles from a safe harbor, attacked and virtually blasted out of the water by a member of the navy that created the empire upon which it was said, “the sun never sets.” Surrender would seem prudent, right? Discretion being the better part of valor — that sort of thing.

Now let’s fast forward into a new millennium. Another revolutionary, John Paul Entrepreneur, is under attack and being virtually blasted out of the marketplace by a member of a Big Box empire upon which it seems the sun doesn’t set.

A lone operator, out-gunned by a force that can sell products cheaper than he can buy them, J.P.E.’s not-so-chivalrous opponent not only isn’t offering to accept surrender, but is actually indifferent to J.P.E.’s existence. Surrender would seem prudent, right? Discretion being the better part of valor and all.

In case history wasn’t your strong suit in school, let me tell you what happened to our first revolutionary. John Paul Jones did lose his ship. Indeed, the Richard sank that day, just as it seemed it would. But not only didn’t Jones and his brave crew surrender, they did what any revolutionary worthy of his cause would do — they attacked. The American underdogs actually boarded and captured the Brit ship, and then sailed it away as heroes to fight another day.

Meanwhile, our latter-day revolutionary, J.P.E., is still pondering his options. Should he abandon company and surrender to the Big Box competitor? Or should he fight for his dream — against all odds? What would you do?  What are you doing?

Well, assuming you have a viable business model, your battle plan is actually quite simple: Let the Big Boxes do what they do well — sell commodities to the masses. And you do what you do well — fight for your niche by delivering customization, adding value based on customer expectations, offering technical expertise and saving customers time.

Then you can assume the attitude and claim the battle cry of one of the great revolutionaries in history. Faced with seemingly insurmountable odds and an offer to surrender, John Paul Jones looked the enemy in the eye and said,

“Surrender? Sir, I have not yet begun to fight!”

Write this on a rock... You have strengths the Big Boxes don’t. Attack with your strengths and win the day.

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning boock, “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.”

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